What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
Social anxiety disorder-also called "social phobia"-is characterized
by an intense fear of being scrutinized by other people in social or performance
situations and of negative evaluation. People who suffer from this condition
literally become "sick with fear" and are afraid of acting in a way that will
be embarrassing or humiliating, causing them to completely avoid such situations
in the future or endure these "everyday" situations with dread. These situations
may include speaking in public, initiating or maintaining a conversation with
strangers or people in authority, participating in meetings or classes and attending
parties or dating.
Is this common? More common than you might think. Affecting
over 10 million Americans, social anxiety disorder is the most common anxiety
disorder (generalized anxiety disorder ranks second). Social anxiety disorder
affects up to 13.3 percent of the population at some point during their lifetime.
Social anxiety disorder usually begins during the mid-teens
and often becomes progressively worse, frequently resulting in a lifelong condition.
Women develop social anxiety disorder at a higher rate than men. Social anxiety
disorder, like other mental illnesses, also appears to run in families.
Social anxiety disorder is not just a "mental" problem:
common physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, trembling, sweating, tense
muscles, upset stomach and blushing. In some cases, these symptoms
may be severe enough to result in a panic attack.
The exact cause of social anxiety disorder is unknown, although
studies suggest that both biological and psychological factors may play a role.
There is evidence of serotonergic dysfunction in people who suffer from social
anxiety disorder, as in people who suffer from other mood and anxiety disorders.
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Created: 2/5/2004  - Donnica Moore, M.D.